For Edward Thomas
The earth, on days like these, expands to the foe-less
Glistens of the ridge-tips that cut into the painting
Of the sergeant stripes. Sun breaks down the meterflow,
And the upbreeze from the valley floor is the moment
Of our first eye-contact. I, too, see one hundred years
Through a mossy spiral tube. And I, too, see
Months in shades of grey, and years in blue,
And days stood, rigid and in regiment, like a Megacity skyline.
At this point I am reminded, and I tear
The black paper from the windows, that
We must set the scene, paint the day,
Push our meanings into words and our bodies
Into skylines, into cloud-towers, the supernatural
Curse pursued. We must be at some ridge,
Clay mud precipitous, fissile under boot, and I would not
Wish to give momentum to a deathless bird
Who’s been done to death already, but crows fill up
The asperous branch-lines – no other birds would do
In hawthorn-time, no other black mass cloud
Could play the part of metaphor hanging for the
Approaching gas above the solitudinous figure ambling
Down below. But ambling as alive.
Or might it be an inn,
A long-eared silver gundog snoring like a tractor engine at the open fire,
At his master’s field boot – the master dozes, his
Whiskers bristle in the short-flamed warmth, his schooner
Spills his sherry, spotting on his tweeded knee. “Ev’ry Tuesday,”
Says the landlord, who cocks his head and cloths his pot,
“We’ve already had the wooden plaque carved for him,
So we have, to mark that seat in honour of the ol’ man
When that day comes when he’s laid upon the shelf.”
But even here, into the saggy joys of russet night,
With accordion and spoons, handled mug and teeth to pipe,
I, too, am a stranger, a friar’s lantern,
I will get no plaque, I will want no plaque,
And such gestures would disgust me.
Many and many a day like this, the earth expands
To foe-less glistens and the old inhabitants
Of earth will have no nothingness but each other.
Yes, we talked of Edward Thomas today
And the afternoon he went off to the woods
With the revolver from the desk drawer of his study.
The cottage must have hollowed like a warren,
The iron mesh doormat dry dusted with his boot mud,
And Helen waited, fed the children, ironed shirts,
Waited for the news of Edward’s death. It is all
A waiting game, a watcher’s game, a conqueror’s dream.
Picks up, and one day he will never return,
And the winter sun makes shrill advances,
And Easter tracks the moon – are we not going to talk
About the resurrection as neither metaphor nor symbol?
He died on Easter Sunday, as good as scripture-tight.
Gone from this story are the secluded lovers,
Swallowed by the bursting earth,
And Edward’s smell – the damp clod of his walking tweed –
And my own flat feet, and bowed knees. Gone is the
Feel of light, the sound of the hum of bees, the smell
Of drying grass and the sweet mint – gone but for
Those million words or so.
At night, at war, at the day’s attuned beginning,
We see a difference. And there are, as with most of us,
Two figures on that ridge, the one who dies and
The one who lives, neither imposter, neither untrue,
Neither leads, neither follows, and as we bite down
On the pipe stem, the tipple of the teeth on Bakelite bit,
There is silence in the glistening, the crows cloud, sun breaks,
Silence in the release, and meaning out of reach no more.
Gary Raymond is a novelist, short story writer, critic, and lecturer in English and Creative Writing. As well as a regular voice in Wales Arts Review, Gary has written for The Guardian, Rolling Stone Magazine, is a theatre critic for The Arts Desk, and is a regular commentator on arts and culture for BBC Wales. In 2013, Gary published JRR Tolkien: A Visual Biography of Fantasy’s Most Revered Writer with Ivy Press, and his novel, For Those Who Come After, was published last year (Parthian Books).
Banner & Author Image: Copyright © Jo Mazelis, 2017.